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Thiourea (TU)/amine base co-catalysts are commonly employed for well-controlled, highly active ‘living’ organocatalytic ring-opening polymerizations (ROPs) of cyclic esters and carbonates. In this work, several of the most active co-catalyst pairs are shown by 1H-NMR binding studies to be highly associated in solution, dominating all other known non-covalent catalyst/reagent interactions during ROP. One strongly-binding catalyst pair behaves kinetically as a unimolecular catalyst species. The high selectivity and activity exhibited by these ROP organocatalysts is attributed to the strong binding between the two co-catalysts, and the predictive utility of these binding parameters is applied for the discovery of a new, highly active co-catalyst pair.


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